The Volunteer as a Title

I check the Amazon page for The “Volunteer” regularly to see if any new reader reviews have been added.  It is up to 46 reviews on the American Amazon site now, quite a lot for an independently published novel that has never had a major advertising campaign.  Even better, the average rating per review is a lofty 4.5 stars.  Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed The “Volunteer”.

I saw something interesting when I checked the paperback edition’s Amazon page this morning.  In the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” section was another book, a novel, called The Volunteer.

Also Viewed

Of course, I clicked on this other novel to check it out. It is by an author named Salvatore Scibona whose previous novel The End was nominated for a National Book Award.  His The Volunteer is scheduled to be released on March 5, 2019.  I also saw in the “About the Author” section that Salvatore Scibona is the director for the Scullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.  Coincidentally, I worked as a librarian at the New York Public Library in the early 1990s.

I have mixed feelings about seeing another novel with the title The Volunteer.  Titles, of course, cannot be copyrighted, and I’m sure there were other books called The Volunteer published before I submitted mine to the world (although I doubt that anyone put the word Volunteer in quotation marks as part of the title).  No, the thing that bothers me just a bit is someone searching for Mr. Scibona’s The Volunteer and finding mine instead.  Sure, it might make for more sales for me, but most of the people who have bought my The “Volunteer” have done so because they were attracted to the concept.  They knew what they were going to get.  I’m not so sure those wanting to read Mr. Scibona’s “epic story of a restless young man who is captured during the Vietnam War and pressed into service for a clandestine branch of the United States government” are going to want to read a first person account from a young woman who reluctantly chooses to go naked in public for a sociology experiment.

Part of my misgiving comes from the fact that I am, like many writers, a bit insecure about my writing.  I mentioned this in my last post, that I felt an affinity with William Goldman when he said that he was truly proud of only two of his works.  For those who search for Mr. Scibona’s book and find mine, I can only say that I hope you enjoy it.  It was written just for the pure fun of writing.

RIP William Goldman

I just saw the news that author and screenwriter William Goldman died today. He was the screenwriter for such classics as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Marathon Man, A Bridge Too Far, and The Princess Bride.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, stories and partial novels mostly.  Back in 2003 (at the age of 37 which, now that I think of it, is a little beyond being a kid) I decided to teach myself screenwriting.  I bought a copy of the Final Draft software, a couple of books on screenwriting, and went to work on a screenplay about a death row inmate who gets a final conjugal visit from a prostitute hired by his brother.  That screenplay went through several drafts and several different endings before I shelved it.  During this time, I made my one and, to date, only trip to Los Angeles to attend the 2003 Screenwriting Expo.  One of the featured speakers there was William Goldman.

I listened to his presentation with great interest.  He was, after all, one of the screenwriting giants, and I had read his books about the movie business Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell.  The thing I remembered most about his session was that he said there were only two writing projects of his that he can look back on with any kind of sense of pride, that he felt he had done the best job he could.  The first of these was the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  The second was both the novel and the screenplay The Princess Bride.  As a writer who struggles with feelings of inadequacy regarding my own writing, hearing someone with his tremendous body of work say that he was only really satisfied with two things really had an impact on me.

Princess Bride

After the session was over, I made my way to one of the men’s room in the Los Angeles Convention center.  I was alone at the bank of urinals when someone stepped up and started using one to my right.  I glanced over long enough to determine that William Goldman himself was taking a whiz right next to me.  The fanboy in me went into overdrive.  There was so much I wanted to ask him, about the production of Butch Cassidy, Andre the Giant in Princess Bride, adapting Stephen King novels for the screen, but I couldn’t say anything.  We were in the men’s room doing our private business after all.  So, I finished up and washed my hands.  I left without uttering a word to him.  I have always wished that I had said something…

34 Years…

I modeled for my very first figure drawing session exactly 34 years ago today.  I bring that up here since modeling, especially nude modeling, provided the genesis of my novel The “Volunteer”, and is a major focus of my next novel Life Models.  In celebration of this anniversary, here is a slightly edited piece I wrote a few years ago about how I got into modeling in the first place…

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Art modeling is an unusual job because it is one where nudity in front of others is required, and yet, there is nothing overtly erotic or titillating about it. It can be very physically demanding, both doing short action poses and long extended ones. The human body was not made to be still, but to be in motion. Maintaining a pose for any length of time goes against that nature to move. And yet, in spite of the physical demands and the fact that I am putting myself on display to an extent greater than any other job that I can think of, I still love it. I wouldn’t have done it for 34 years and counting if I didn’t.

I grew up in a very clothes-compulsive house. Nudity was simply not present except in the bath or shower. I don’t think I’ve seen either of my younger brothers nude since they were toddlers. So when I was 18 and a freshman in college, I rebelled from that clothes-compulsiveness by taking it all off for art classes. The idea that I could be a nude model for a whole classroom full of people was born in the dormitory cafeteria. I lived in an all-male dorm, but it was next to a female dorm, and we all shared the same dining hall. I was sitting across from a young lady one day in the fall of 1984, eating lunch. This girl was a little odd, but she was also cute. I remember being very interested in her. I don’t even remember her name now, all these years later, but one random fact I do remember is that she was a big fan of Grace Jones. During our lunchtime conversation, she mentioned that she drew “naked people” in her art class.  I knew that such classes existed from watching an episode of Three’s Company not too many months earlier.  In the episode, Jack Tripper (played by the late John Ritter) tries to impress a new girl in the neighborhood by agreeing to pose for an art class she is teaching. When he arrives at the class, she tells him to get undressed. He is surprised, not even suspecting that the art class drew nude models, but he goes through with it anyway. The punchline is that his landlord, Mr. Furley (played by the late Don Knotts), walks into the class with his drawing pad under his arm just after Jack has disrobed. The look on his face was the funniest shot of the episode.  But Three’s Company took place in California.  I didn’t think classes in Fayetteville, Arkansas would use nude models. I was immediately intrigued. I told the girl at my table that I wanted to model.

Later, as I thought about it, I decided that I had to go through with it if only to impress upon this girl that I would do what I said I would. I ventured over to the art building and saw a sheet on a bulletin board advertising for models. They were paying five dollars per hour, which, at the time, was better than any other campus job I could get. I went to the Tuesday evening open figure drawing session and made an attempt to draw the female model there. My drawings were terrible, but I wasn’t too interested in drawing. I wanted to witness a session and see how the model acted, was treated, etc. It took me awhile to gather the courage to sign up as a model myself, but I finally did.

While waiting for my first call, I went to the college bookstore and found the textbook for the figure drawing class. It contained a few black and white photographs taken in drawing classes. One of the things that I couldn’t help but notice was that the female models were nude but the male models in the classes wore a jock strap. That wouldn’t do. I couldn’t see myself modeling like that, with my genitals covered and my bare butt hanging out. That would be far more embarrassing than being fully nude, I thought. Besides, if the females get to be completely nude, why not the males? I went back to the open drawing session, but there was another female model there. I asked one of the ladies drawing if they ever had male models, and she said yes. I then asked if the males had to wear anything, and she said no. That calmed my nerves a bit. Unfortunately, my second attempt at drawing was even worse than the first.

I got a call a few Tuesdays later from the coordinator of that open session. His model had cancelled for that night, and he needed someone to cover. I accepted somewhat reluctantly. Once I hung up the phone, I realized that the class started in less than an hour. I took a long walk around campus before entering the studio. There were only two women who had shown up to draw that night, including the one I had asked about the jock strap thing. It was election night, and I’m sure a lot of people stayed home to watch the returns. (Reagan stomped Mondale that night, by the way.)

I didn’t even have a robe, but the female models I had observed hadn’t had robes either. I started taking off my clothes beside the modeling platform. When I got down to my underwear, took a deep breath, and slipped them off. There I was. The two ladies did not run screaming that there was a naked man in the room. I took my poses and got more comfortable as the evening went on.

I eventually modeled for the regular figure drawing class during the spring semester. Alas, the young lady who had introduced me to this new profession never saw me model (she had only taken the class in the fall). The figure drawing class was small, only five students, and I got very comfortable posing for them. Toward the end of that spring semester, the instructor asked me to model for her introductory drawing class. I agreed, and I was somewhat shocked when I showed up for it. The room was packed with at least 20 people. I definitely had butterflies just because of the number of students and the knowledge that they had never drawn from a nude model before. I went ahead, gulped real hard, took everything off and hopped on the model stand.  My experience in that class was wonderful, as if my platform were an island outside of everything else going in my life and I was sharing it with these special artists in the room.  By the time class was over, I didn’t want to have to get dressed and go back out into the rest of the world. I was hooked on this strange, wonderful profession.

2018 Panther City Review

I am excited to announce that the name of my next novel will be Life Models.  It is a story I started writing two or three years before I wrote The “Volunteer” and has taken a few detours on its way to completion.  I don’t have a release date for it as of yet as I am still putting the finishing touches on it, but an excerpt from Chapter One is being published in the 2018 edition of Panther City Review.

A launch party for Panther City Review is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, August 18th in Fort Worth, from 4:00 until 6:00.  I’ll be there along with several of the other featured authors.  It’s at Funky Town Festival, 1549 N. Main Street.  If you’re in Fort Worth, come on down and enjoy the party.

 

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire 17th Anniversary

On March 7, 2001, I sat in a television studio in New York across from Regis Philbin and answered multiple choice questions until I missed.  I wound up winning $32,000 at this little exercise, and along the way, Regis and I talked about my nude modeling job in front of the studio audience and the many cameras.

That episode aired four days later, on Sunday night, March 11th.  I went to the store that day, and as I was checking out I looked around at everyone and wondered how many of them would be watching me that night.  All they had to do was tune their televisions to ABC.  In fact, that applied to anyone in the country, all 250 million of them.  It was such a surreal experience.  And for a few days after the show aired, people did double takes when they saw me, many of them actually approaching and talking to me as if they knew me, asking about the show and the money I had won.

It’s hard to believe that it has been seventeen years since that amazing experience, but I have grown older.  My kids have grown up.  My toddler son is now a father himself.

Here’s the video of my appearance on the show (D.H. Jonathan is a pen name I used when publishing The “Volunteer”).

Audible and Amazon Reviews

I just saw that a review of the audiobook edition of The “Volunteer” has been posted on Audible.com.  The review was favorable, giving the book four stars overall, and had good things to say about the narrator Loral Miller.  The review was dated December 18, 2017, but I just saw it on the book’s Audible page today.

There have also been two new reviews of The “Volunteer” posted on Amazon in the past couple of days.  I did notice that the first (and so far only) one star review had been posted on December 10, 2017, by someone who admitted in that review to reading an early draft of the book, so it is gratifying to see the two new favorable reviews posted since.  I had long ago decided not to answer negative reviews in any way.  The work should stand on its own, without having to be defended by its author, and authors have to realize that no book will receive universal praise.  But I did notice today that that one star review had a comment attached to it by another reader, a rebuttal of sorts.  That comment was posted almost a month ago, but I just noticed it today.

I would like to thank all my readers for every review of The “Volunteer“.  The book currently has 41 reviews on Amazon.com, with an average rating of 4.5 stars, plus an additional 6 reviews on Amazon.co.uk and another 2 on Amazon.ca.  And there is also the review on Audible which doesn’t show up on any of the Amazon pages.  Thank you to everyone!

Volunteer book promo

Download the Audiobook

Judging from the running time of the audiobook version of The “Volunteer” as posted on the book’s Amazon and Audible pages, the corrected files have been loaded into production.  If you’ve already purchased the audio version, just go back to Amazon, Audible, or iTunes and re-download the book.  That should replace the uncorrected files with the new ones.  The book is, of course, also available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Erotica-Sexuality/The-Volunteer-Audiobook/B0785NJCZN

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/The-Volunteer-A-Novel/dp/B077YR8NSY/

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/the-volunteer-a-novel-unabridged/id1322630342

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